Soon after moving to Keene I was lucky enough to meet Desha Peacock, founder of Sweet Spot Style and best selling author of Your Creative Workspace and Create the Style You Crave on a Budget You Can Afford: The Sweet Spot Guide to Home Decor. Over a hearty salad and smoothies, she listened as I struggled to articulate my professional goals, and she very kindly recommended I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Here I was, sitting in a vegetarian cafe in Brattleboro Vermont, being gifted with handmade textiles, essential oils, and an Elizabeth Gilbert book recommendation. My inner cynic definietly had her ears peaked, but my inner cynic is also kind of a soul-sucking pain the ass, so I took the advice to heart and drove straight to my local library. The truth is, that meeting and that book have a lot to do with how I summoned the courage to write stories like the one you are reading right now, because as Ms. Gilbert so rightly articulates, "Creative living is a path for the brave."
In the case of Back of the Forty, an Airbnb situated on Riverview Farm, Amy Franklin courageously shares her dream home with curious travelers from all over the world. It's the finished product from an inspired collaboration between her and local design-build company Geobarns, founded by George Abetti. Together, they built a home and a source of revenue well equipped to carry her family's farm through to the next generation.
The moment I stepped foot in Amy's Airbnb I thought to myself "I want this house and everything in it." It's the perfect blend of modern and traditional, reminiscent of Joanna Gaines but certainly not a Fixer Upper copy. I loved every detail so much that I had to interview Amy and George to find out as much as I could about the process and the property.
This home is both luxurious and welcoming which is not easy to achieve. Do you have any design resources/inspirations that you return to time and time again?
AMY: I tried to think about how I wanted my space to "feel." What did I want to see of the outside when I was in each room? How will one room to relate to the other? I knew I wanted to use natural elements such as wood, metal and stone because their textures and appearance appealed to me but also I enjoy being outside and this seemed like a natural way to bring that inside.
I tried to think about how I would use each space. The loft is where I do a lot of living so I put the TV up there so I would not get distracted by it when I am downstairs cooking or entertaining. The kitchen/living/dining is centered around the exterior views and of course the vaulted ceilings. One of my requirements for my dream home was the ability to have a tall Christmas tree so though the windows and doors provide a backdrop to the open concept rooms, they also allow for a large tree and views of the lights from outside. The living room area was designed to feel cozy in the winter as that is my favorite time of year and I find a wood stove to be irresistable.
I also made sure that as I came up with a purpose and feel for each room, it wouldn't become a house full of incongruous spaces. The use of similar materials throughout helped as well as using paint colors that related to each other. I was going to just use whites and creams but consulted with my friend Kelli at Sherwin Williams and we came up with the paint scheme you see in the house. I used shiplap in strategic places which cut down on cost but allowed for some expression of design.
One other little design element that I find unique is the transom windows above some of the interior doorways. They all came from my parents' farmhouse and one of their old barns. Most of the glass is old glass with only a few panes needing replacement before they were installed. Those were my dad's idea. He will tell you he isn't artistic but he has a creative bone in his body to be sure.
George, you mentioned on your website that Amy and her friends and family also assisted with the construction and that you loved this collaboration. I think a lot of people might be intimidated to consider this as a budget saving option. Would you recommend it to anyone or just those with some construction experience?
GEORGE: It is a bit of a double edged sword--often making our job more difficult--but in the case of a highly motivated, industrious client--it's a win-win. Some of our best builds--Amy and Robin Luciano Beaty --were small, low budget builds made possible only by this passionate collaboration with the client. It never works if the client's only goal is to save money--which while necessary--is never sufficient to pull off a project.
I love the beam above the stairs that also serves as a planter box, it's such a good idea. Amy, I know you are a horticultural expert - what other ways did you bring nature into your home?
AMY: That planter was also my dad's idea! I love it. It was custom made by a gentleman in Cornish, NH. I love copper so that was the material chosen for the planter and shelf. I tried to think about planting it as a landscape using all sorts of plants to create that illusion. It is a nice bright spot of green in the winter. As I mentioned above, I tried to bring nature inside by using materials found outside-stone, metal and wood. The large windows also provide a way to draw in the landscape of the farm as well as provide lots of natural light.
George, you mention on your site that Geobarns understands the complexities of succession planning and the long-term needs of farmers. Can you talk a bit more about this? How integral are these considerations for the survival of the farms here in New England?
GEORGE: Imperative...we have a rapacious government, high taxes, and suffocating bureaucracies that all mitigate simultaneously against farmers and small businesses surviving, so the only way to to do so is to pass on land and assets developed over decades to those (such as Amy) who recognize the infinite value of their stewardship.
Amy, I think your shower might be the most beautiful shower I've ever seen. In fact, your 2 bathrooms are perfect for someone looking for a true retreat from the ordinary and I like how one is dedicated to the tub and one is dedicated to the shower. Which is your favorite?
I love my master bathroom-the one with the shower. I am not a big bath person but I recognize that I may not always be the only person in my house and should think about other people's needs too. The idea for that shower came from the communal campground showers at Cinnamon Bay Campground in St. John, USVI. They were made from larger stone but had an open top which allowed views to the palms above. I always felt like I was in some secret cave when I was in them and I loved the feeling of the stone on my feet. When thinking about my shower, I knew I wanted to do the pebble tile and I knew I wanted a walk in shower (I can't stand cleaning glass shower doors) but I wasn't entirely sure how far I wanted the tile to rise above the privacy wall. I decided to take it all the way to the ceiling so that it would be a larger design focal point and provide that extra bit of texture in the bathroom. The pebbles on my feet at the end of a long day are heaven and the water hitting the stone makes for a pleasant backdrop to my thoughts as I wind down from work or play. My dear friend, Steve, was kind enough to work with me to figure out all the logistics of using the pebble tile and epoxy grout. He pulled it off and I thank him frequently for my little spa shower.
What are a few of your favorite spots in the area to eat, hike, get coffee, etc?
GEORGE: White River Junction has a plethora of amazing eating estblishments...Piecemeal Pies, Chef Brad's Crazy Sides, Tucker Box, Elixir, Thyme, etc--all fabulous. My wife makes the best coffee known to man so I am pretty happy at home--but Tucker Box and Piecemeal Pies are superb.
Amy, how has it been to share your dream home with Airbnb guests:
AMY: Friends always ask me, "isn't it weird having strangers stay in your house?" I tell them that I grew up with the public on my property for three solid months in a row (during harvest season at the farm) so this feels like a natural extension of that. I also like knowing that I am providing a home away from home as people travel to visit loved ones, attend graduations, seek a weekend getaway with a new spouse or just get the heck outta Dodge with their family for a long weekend.
Get out of Dodge, get out of your own head, and take a cue from Elizabeth Gilbert, "cooperate fully, humbly, and joyfully with inspiration." Thanks for visiting and we look forward to seeing you Weekending Around soon!
The Basics: Plainfield, New Hampshire
Boston, Mass: 2 Hours
Hartford, CT: 2.5 Hours
Stamford, CT: 3 Hours and forty minutes
New York, NY: 4.5 Hours
Montshire Museum (great for kids)
I started Weekends Arounds to marry my passion for hospitality and interior design with my love of New England. Because lodging has the greatest impact on a travel experience, I only feature Airbnbs, home rentals, and hotels that I have personally visited (and on my own dime and time - always). I’ll share all my detailed itineraries, photography, and recommendations so that you, too, can experience this beautiful part of the world.